It’s been a rough week for me personally. In general I don’t like to get too personal in this blog as although Testimony is critical to our Spiritual walk it can often involve other people, and their story is not mine.
As far as possible this will be about my struggles recently.
Regular readers (both of you) know I’m starting this project as a result of a call on my life made 20 years ago that became developed into what is now this blog, and the newsletter soon to be produced for the mailing list. From there, the vision is to register formally as a non-profit Christian Charity with social change and outreach as goals. The newsletter will make the move into a self-financed print magazine using testimony and teaching provided by local and connected churches and ministries. It’s a challenge for someone diagnosed with ADD to head this up, and I am VERY aware I can’t do it alone.
I had a list of things I was going to do over the last 3 weeks towards Eagle’s Wing Ministries as a project. None of them got done. My oldest dog, Beamer, stopped eating and began drastically losing weight. The photo here was taken in January before she got sick. She was 36 kilos (about 7olbs) and although she was 12 years old she had just got her second wind as far as activity was concerned. She had a bit of pain in her hips, but nothing we couldn’t control, and the smile in this picture was typical of her when she was playing. We’d just taken a break from playing with the toy between her front paws, a “Kong”. She loved it and we’d had 3 in her life.
Fast forward twelve weeks and that smile was less enthusiastic and she was down to 27kg (55lbs +/-). For any creature losing that much weight that fast is a bad sign. We took her to a vet and she was treated for a gastric infection. It didn’t help and a week later she was 25kg. We took her back and the senior vet, Dr Futter, examined her. With half a century of experience he was able to confirm what I’d dreaded hearing. She had cancer. He offered to run tests to confirm it, but a physical examination had found her liver was not right. She would go downhill fast and be in a lot of pain.
Much as it hurt, my wife and I took the only choice we had and said goodbye to her. I knelt stroking her paws and her head as the injection was given, and my wife and I were the last faces she saw as she slipped away.
I’ve faced loss. My dad’s sister died in a fire in 1981, his cousin from cancer in ’83. My brother died in a road accident in 1985, Both my mum’s parents died from cancer in ’88 and ’91. Dad’s parents died relatively peacefully from their hearts giving up, then in ’99 my dad died of a brain tumour at 56, 7 years after retiring on health grounds and beating melanoma.
I know loss. We are intimately acquainted. There’s a lot more, but those stories belong to other people as well.
I saw more struggle and suffering in the first 28 years of my life in England than most see in 70. And it’s not given up. I’m 44 now and the hits keep coming.
But we weren’t promised an easy life. We are in a war as Christians, and soldiers are uniquely open to suffering.
Jesus suffered. He sweated blood the night of His arrest. He was whipped until He was unrecognisable as a man, then He was nailed to a timber beam and left in the sun of a Middle-Eastern day to be suffocated by his own bodyweight dislocating His shoulders and elbows as He fought for every breath. His weight would cause His lungs to begin to collapse and finally He would die of suffocation, naked and in agony, a combination of blood-loss from the whipping, heat exposure under the sun and crucifixion. The final confirmation, a spear thrust into His side and what was left of His blood flowed out, already visually separated to look like blood and water.
Jesus chose to.
Most of us don’t. In the two weeks since Beamer died we have had to rehome our other two dogs, Maggie and Sam, after they attacked and killed the family cat of my brother-in-law. We struggled with the choice. My first instinct was euthanasia – once a dog has a taste for the hunt they rarely lose it. Sam, having survived being hit by a van and a resulting collapsed lung and shattered pelvis had to have his femoral-head amputated to give him any mobility. The choice to let him suffer not knowing what his quality of life would be was a hard one, but nine years ago he was only a year old so we gave him the chance. Eight years ago his uninjured hind leg developed a tumour in the foot and to save him the whole leg had to be amputated. The specialist called it a “wide margin” to make sure there was no other cancerous tissue left. Any wider and he’d have had to decapitate him! Against the odds, he survived. In fact, he thrived.
He became the hunter of the family. We never had a rat problem. Sam caught and killed every rat that set its foot on the property, some of them as big as a cat…
Now he killed a cat. Not just any cat, but one much loved by the whole family. The choice was hard, but I made it. But grace was offered that I could not have done in the same situation. Lucien and Wendy asked us not to put Sam and Maggie to sleep because of this.
But we all felt since they have children that the dogs must be moved.
Two weeks of struggle.
I’ve read about the shootings in America, the issues with ISIS, atrocities by everyone in the Middle-East, and my struggle this week has been the behaviour of my dog. It seems small to most people. “It’s just a dog” is a phrase I’m used to, and it’s helped me reduce the number of “friends” I have on Facebook.
Maggie and Sam have been taken to my mum’s house, where 2 weeks ago Beamer – their mother – was staying. Her room, bed and blankets are now theirs. I watched them excitedly rush to find their mum today. Her scent must be overwhelming for them. I saw them mover the blankets and the mattress, then scratch at the door to go outside. I watched as they ran to Beamer’s favourite spot to lie outside, only to find it empty. I watched them try to understand their mum wasn’t there, and I couldn’t explain to them she wouldn’t be back. They have a struggle with that. We’ve gone from 5 dogs to 2 in 6 years. And you can’t explain it to them.
Struggles come in all shapes.
These came as a distraction to me. I have admin work for my day-job that needs doing, and marketing and desktop publishing design work for the ministry that is left undone for now because of these struggles.
They may seem petty in light of world events, but our personal struggles are things God cares about just as much as mass shootings. He notices a sparrow’s life (Luke 12:6), how much more does He notice ours? The trick of the Enemy is to make us feel our struggles are unworthy of God. Things we “should” be able to deal with ourselves.
But not giving God the little things is like trying to get a Ferrari to run on diesel. Technically the fuel might move the car, but it’ll never be what it was designed to be. A Ferrari is designed to run on high octane fuel. A human was designed to run on reliance on God.
Remembering that is the biggest struggle of all.